If not now, when?

One American woman. Twenty acres and a 1650 farmhouse in Tuscany. Random introspection and hilarity, depending on the day.

03 June 2005

The Soviet Safeway has nothin' on us...

Now that I've passed along the mostly successful results of the cooking experience, I thought it only fair to share with you the shopping extravaganza (and resultant frustration) of attempting to pull it together. I *knew* this was going to be a challenge: first, my box of kitchen stuff is in the 'floating in the Atlantic' shipment now, so I had to work with utensils I have here - which would likely NOT include any US measurements (cup, tablespoon, etc.). (Bless the handy convert just about anything to just about anything else website!)

Second, I get a stack of recipes from The Mom (cookbooks also in aforementioned floating shipment), make up a shopping list and truck myself to the grocery store. On the surface, it's your everyday normal grocery store, looks on the surface like something you would find in the states. You know, automatic doors that go 'woosh' when you walk up to them, shopping carts (tho they're much smarter - their carts work on a 'deposit & return' system - you put in a 1Euro coin to get the cart from its stall (like at the airports), then you get your 1E back when you lock it back up. Result: no damaged cars and no acne-faced 16 year old boy having to run gawkily all over the parking lot picking up discarded carts: smart! (oh, and you bag the groceries yourself. What *do* awkward teenage boys do here for a living?!?!)

Inside the store, layout is what I expect: produce in on your right (selection - marginal -- I think it's better to shop in a fresh veggie market for this stuff), then on to milk/eggs/cheese/deli counter. Except the deli counter has easily 50 different kinds of salamis, smoked meats (prosciutto, etc.) to choose from. And eggs? There's only one kind. They're brown, and they're NOT REFRIGERATED. Wacky. And when you break them open, the yolk is really more bright orange. Must be in the feed??? (this must be where Frank Perdue got the secret...)

It won't surprise you that there is AN ENTIRE AISLE devoted to pasta. (and they actually DO sell Barilla pasta here! Here I thought that was just an ad campaign directed at gullible Americans!) So as I shopped, I made a funny list of funny things that are different or don't really exist here ...

Peanut butter (oh, as you know, I found it eventually - there was one tiny little row of about 4 jars - only one option - which looked to be imported from Holland sandwiched next to the 'clam sauce'. Riiiiight. Just exactly where it's intuitive?!?! Crazy, next time you're in the store - take a look. I'd bet there are at LEAST 15 different choices to choose from? (Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan, Smuckers, all natural, chunky and not... super chunky, super extra double chunk, jelly already included.... you name it!) Oh, and FORGET grape jelly. The closest I could find was blackberry preserves. I guess they use all the grapes for wine! (I can't argue with this, really. Who needs grape jelly?!?)

Liquid Smoke or any pre-packaged BBQ sauce. Or any meat flavoring, at all, other than worcestershire sauce, which also was just a small row of 3 bottles (I bought two) near the clam sauce. Hmmm!

Advil. Now *this* is totally worth becoming a 'drug mule' importing this from the states!

Spices: no chile powder, ground mustard, thyme, cloves, garlic powder, just to name a few. The spice section did EXIST, but not nearly as extensively (I did find paprika, dried parsley, and ginger.) I guess they really do rely on fresh stuff. But, geez, why work so hard??

Brown Sugar or Molasses. There is sugar that is brown, but it's just the 'natural' version of cane sugar. Now that I think of it, I really don't know what's *different* about the brown sugar we have (except that it mashes down a lot)? I just took for granted that it was always there.

Marshmallows. (see, Mr. Hospitality? Hence, no ambrosia salad. And the world will be a better place...!) Of course, no marshmallows also means no S'mores, which makes my heart break just a little bit. What will I feed the neighbor boys on their 'campouts' this summer? I may have to import (and probably Graham crackers, too). No child should be without S'mores!

Jello. Yessiree, we have here a whole country that has never experienced the horror of a 7-layer jello salad! Again, IMHO, the world is a better place for this ... tho it's good to know that when Bill Cosby wears out his welcome in the US (isn't *that* nearly a done deal?!?), the rest of the world is just ripe for his next advertising campaign. Mmmm-mmmm, good.

So as not to be completely bashing my new adopted home, there are some things that are much, much better here: Their 'fresh bread' selection rocks (if you get there early enough to take advantage of it). And they have a ready made, roll-out and bake foccacia bread that is truly divine, 10 mins and fabulous (in the section where we would find all those Pillsbury exploding biscuit cans). Every deli counter I've been to has marinated artichoke hearts, which are among my very favorite foods.

And, when I got to the cash register, I did find that the 'loyalty shoppers club' invention of the US is alive and well here, so I paid more than the next guy for most of this stuff. Argh. Add that to the never-ending list of things I need to do -- apply for the 'magic Coop card'.

(and for those of you NOT living inside 'the beltway' - Washington, DC - it's fair to explain the header for this post ... In DC, we have nicknames for all the Safeway grocery stores: the Social Safeway (where people go to 'see and be seen'), the Senior Safeway (self explanatory), the Secret Safeway (hard to find), and - in my old neighborhood, the Soviet Safeway - so named because there is never anything on the shelves. So now ya know.)


Blogger The Mom said...

That is a pretty impressive list of things that need to go into a 3lb care package.

1:01 PM  
Blogger The Female Stranger said...

I don't know if you know this, but brown sugar is just refined white sugar soaked with molasses!

Did you try the Dutch peanut butter? I heard it was a lot different than American peanut butter.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Viaggiatore said...

hmmmm! I didn't know that... so I could make my own brown sugar, if I could find molasses (add that to the list of things I'm definitely NOT ambitious enough to do!)

The Dutch peanut butter is different - more like the "all natural" PB in the US -- needs to have salt added, IMHO, to make it tasty. Thanks for stopping by!

1:35 PM  

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